The airport ground handling company Swissport is planning to cut more than 4,500 jobs in the UK as the aviation industry reels from the coronavirus pandemic.
The company, which handles services such as passenger baggage and cargo for airlines, on Wednesday began a consultation process that is expected to result in 4,556 workers being made redundant, more than half of its 8,500-strong UK workforce.
Swissport was already under pressure at the start of the crisis when the collapse of the regional airline Flybe put smaller UK airports at risk. However, the grounding of the vast majority of flights since the UK’s lockdown began has all but wiped out revenues for many airlines and their suppliers.
Some of Swissport’s largest operations include services at London’s Gatwick and Heathrow airports, Manchester, Newcastle, Edinburgh and Glasgow, alongside a host of regional airports.
The company declined to give details of where the job losses would fall. Swissport employed about 64,000 workers globally before the crisis.
The latest redundancies will heighten pressure on the government to support the aviation and aerospace industries, with tens of thousands of job losses already under way. The airlines British Airways and Virgin Atlantic plan to cut 12,000 and 3,000 jobs respectively and the jet engine maker Rolls-Royce is making 9,000 redundant because of slumping demand for new engines and the associated maintenance.
The government’s coronavirus job retention scheme is understood to have paid the wages of 59,000 furloughed workers in the aviation industry but the planned end of the scheme at the end of October has prompted many companies to start making workers redundant, given that volumes in some industries are not expected to recover to 2019 levels for years.
Nadine Houghton, a national officer at the GMB, said it was “devastating news” that would particularly hit regional economies.
“With Swissport now considering job cuts on this scale, we have deep concerns about the viability of many of our regional airports and the benefits for regional connectivity that they bring,” she said.